[IC] The Basis keyboard

Hi folks,

I posted this on reddit so many of you may have already seen it, but I’d love to get the more refined opinions of this audience.

I’ve been working on the Basis, my dream keyboard, for some time now. I’ve gone through multiple prototype iterations, and I feel I’ve arrived at something that meets the ‘endgame’ quality bar I was striving to reach. With that, I’m at a decision point in the project: do I want to produce this for other people, and does anyone care? So, I’m asking for feedback from folks on what they think about the project whether it sparks their interest. I know the design is polarizing, but I love to hear feedback either direction!

The IC form is here: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=ZvIFUCDVtUCBP-i1NR4nYWqfCYTyXR5KsyzSyLwLJspUNlIySzRDSUREQUJOMTlaQ1JUSkhDUjZEVC4u

A gallery of photos of a full-quality mono prototype is here: https://imgur.com/gallery/Xw8Xv4J

Some shots of an earlier prototype showing the split layout is here: https://imgur.com/gallery/lWS7OVc

begin advertising copy


The Basis is an ortholinear 65%(ish) keyboard with three rotary encoders.

The keyboard is designed to be a developer’s dream daily driver keyboard. The encoders are positioned for frequent, workflow-integrated use, and the key layout was aligned with a typical laptop keyboard to enable friction free switching from working at your desk to working on the go…

There are two configurations for the Basis - the mono (single piece) keyboard, or a split keyboard with two independent halves connected with a cable.

The PCB is designed to be completely hotswappable - even the rotary encoders. We designed a custom plate fitting that slots over your encoders to fully secure them while allowing them to be hotswapped as easily as any keyswitch key. But, if you want to solder your switches and encoders, you can do that too.

The PCBs run low power ARM processors with USB-C connectors, onboard audio, RGB underglow lighting and static discharge protection. The Basis runs on QMK firmware, and will support VIA for easy key binding.

The high profile frosted polycarbonate case has no visible seams or screws on the outside. A configurable weight or sound dampener sits under the plate, and additional dampening can be added between the plate and PCB to create a more muted audio experience.

The layout uses ‘ergo’ style keycaps, with a mix of 1.5u and 1u modifiers. The spacebars can be configured as 4 x 1u, 2 x 1u and 1 x 2u, or 2 x 2u. Or, if you want, 1 x 3u and 1 x 1u. The PCB only supports MX-compatible switches, and EC11 compatible encoders with push switches.

After multiple prototyping stages and extensive testing, the Basis keyboard is ready to be an endgame keyboard. Because of the multiple components and difficult-to-machine case geometry, the expected price may be somewhere above $500 for the case, weight, PCB, plate and associated hardware.

More photos of the Basis and updates on the project can be found on our instagram, at https://www.instagram.com/_tangent_space_/

11 Likes

Not an orto user, but this is beautiful.

Yeah, same here. Not my layout for now, but I love how different this is. Its refreshing to see something different and original.

Curious, what prompted the desire for three rotaries?

To mimic a bass guitar ofc :wink:

2 Likes

I do a lot of 3D stuff, so the primary inspiration for three encoders was this demo from the Spin Macropad creator of using 3 encoders for 3 axis control in blender: https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/fabfj3/after_some_work_i_got_multiple_encoders/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share

Lately I’ve been doing more code than 3d, and I actually find them incredibly useful for that. I get the most use out of find next/find prev (incredible for searching around big files or projects). I also bind one to move my cursor up and down (not just scrolling) and one to swap tabs in the editor.

3 Likes

I have to subscribe that this is lovely and unique and a staggered version must exist…

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This is extremely cool. I wish I had the motivation to learn how to use an ortho board.

I have a boardwalk with a similar layout. Love this.

I’m interested in ortho. Never had to chance to try one though. Regardless, I’m interested in this board already. Form submitted.

Here’s a link to a quick sound test (recorded with my phone) I did with the “supermute” configuration. This build has a Norbauer-inspired wool damper in place of the case weight, and I also added a full wool layer between the plate and the PCB. I’m running it with unlubed (i’m lazy) gat black ink silents, and I’m really happy with the sound of it. I’m gonna try this same setup with the gazzow boba u4’s when i get them!

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Hey, stagger users, which one of these would you prefer:


R1 offset by .25u from R2 (usually is a .5u offset)

OR

R4 is offset by .25u from R3 (again, usually is a .5u offset).

Otherwise i’d have to have a weird sized 1 or / key, or cut something from a traditional layout.

1 Like

I think I would get used with both but would prefer R1 offset by .25 as it’s in the less used number row. I would also like to see split backspace and maybe spacebar, as those are popular and both make the keyboard more ergonomic layout+layer switching related.

2 Likes

I fiddled with it a little bit more and this is the best layout I could get to fit into my existing cutout with any chance of finding the keycaps to actually fit it (KAM Wraith was the closest, and you could make KAT/MT3s work with enough kits):

I’d split the backspace and provide more spacebar row options, but most basic GMK keysets still won’t really work very well. I might get a few PCBs made with this layout but I’m not so sure about how good of an idea it is with the keycap constraints.

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Thanks to everyone who replied to this! I ran this on reddit, here, and GH and I want to share the results:


88 responses! Only 3 people felt like clicking through to say ‘no’, which is promising.


Slight lean towards the mono, but I feel like this is a little biased because the fancy prototype was the mono version.


Happy to see people are excited about the plastic; I really want a POM version, but my prototype manufacture couldn’t guarantee they could do it with high quality. Shout out to my Ultem pal, I got a quote for getting some of those made and it’s pricey. The ‘other’ answer was “Anything”.


Mildly surprised that brass won this, very surprised that steel wasn’t even lower.


Pretty strong indication of the commercial value of hotswap.


About the same as a coinflip.


Cut that feature.


Probably cut that feature.


Not a surprising result; I estimated the cost at the high end of the range, and it’s an expensive design.

A selection of the other feedback included:

  • The rgb underglow does not look as good as I expected (yeah, for sure, i’m gonna reconfigure the LED layout for the next build to try to improve this)
  • The empty space on the right is terribly failing with my aesthetics.
  • If there are alot of non standard keys (it’s designed to use an ergo keyset, so you shouldn’t need to worry about this)
  • per-key rgb is awesome for learning layers
  • better case colors (agreed 100%)
  • Thickness/height and weight of the keyboard (this is designed to be a smooth chunky beast, so that’s intentional. The stacked version is much smaller and lighter)

And my absolute favorite piece of feedback: “Not sure if the Mono is awful or amazing.”

It’s really great to get all this data!

My current plan is to make a ‘release ready’ version of the PCB to put on github open source, along with a design for a stacked acrylic/POM/whatever you want to stack case. After that I may do a small run of the CNC case and sell them, but probably not as a group buy. (the biggest drawback for that plan is I may not get a good selection of colored PC, but i’ll poke at some other manufacturers to see what I can find)

Again, thanks to everyone for the responses and feedback!

2 Likes

Thanks for sharing the results. It’s interesting to see how much variety there is in people’s preferences.

1 Like